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Mobile Bay Inspiration Home


Sustainable Design Strategies

Planning and Design

The stairwell is located in the core of the house, along with utility rooms and the elevator, in order to allow all the primary living spaces access to daylight and views. Since the stairwell is an essential part of the experience of the multi-level Inspiration Home, this presented a biophilic design challenge. The design of the stairwell became an opportunity to play with dynamic and changing light. A skylight, hidden in a deep shaft, bathes the interior landings with diffused daylight, changing in color and brightness with the weather and time of day.  As you arrive at the landing of each floor you are offered a view to the outdoors, “borrowed” from the Powder Room, Hall, and Foyer. At sunset at certain times of year, the rear wall of the stairwell is painted with a warm glow from these windows.  At the top of the stairwell, as your view aligns with the angle of the light well, you are greeted with a glimpse of the sky.  Clean, slender iron railings and white oak treads reinforce the light and airy experience

Ventilating Skylight

The Velux solar ventilating skylight serves as a thermal chimney, releasing warm air from the upper floor, and drawing in cooler air from the ground floor windows through convection and the stack effect. The skylight’s operation is powered by a rooftop solar panel. The skylight turns the stairs into a light well, sharing light between the three floors. An angled and deeply recessed installation shields the stairwell from the heat of the direct morning and midday sun, while allowing indirect reflected light to bathe the stairs, and a view of the changing colors of the sky.

“Color Tunable” Lighting

Our bodies evolved in sunlight. Daylight changes in color throughout the day, from warm morning light, to cooler and brighter mid day light, back to warm evening light. Exposure to those shifting color temperatures defines our circadian rhythms, which in turn regulate our sleep cycles, our weight, and our health. We see technology adapting to recognize this, with phones that change to a warmer screen color in the evening to help prepare people for sleep.

Nora Lighting’s  2” Iolite recessed LED luminaires are equipped with “comfort dim” technology, so that it is “color tunable” from a bright sunny 3100K, to a dimmed glow at 2,000K, which is more like candlelight. This allows the interior lighting to go through the same color shifts as the light outdoors, supporting healthy circadian function and healthy sleep.

The lights also have a color rendering index of 90+ which means they will not distort your perception of color. 90% of all lighting is required to be efficient for Zero Energy Ready Certification. 100% of the lighting in this home uses super efficient LED light sources. Efficient LED Lighting reduces energy use and heat generation associated with lighting. LED’s also have an extremely long life, approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent, 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen, and 8-10 times longer than a typical CFL. Depending on how many hours a day the lights are used, a homeowner may only have to change an LED every 11-18 years.

Wood Flooring

The wood flooring used throughout the Inspiration home is a pale white oak with distinctive graining and a matte finish that gives it the appearance of unfinished wood. Using visibly identifiable natural materials is a biophilic design strategy that has been proven to provide emotional and cognitive benefits, including decreased blood pressure, increased creativity, and increased comfort. Learn more about the benefits of Biophilic Design.

The adhesives and sealants used in its installation are GreenGuard certified for low emissions.  Products with GREENGUARD Certification are compliant with stringent emission levels for over 360 Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), plus a limit on the total of all chemical emissions combined (TVOC).

Wood Doors and Trim

Solid wood doors and finger jointed molding use wood sourced from Koetter’s own managed forests that were planted from vacant land. Keotter has won multiple awards for forest management Including the “Good Steward” award from the Arbor Day foundation and the Forestry Award from the Indiana Wildlife Federation. Solid wood doors are naturally low emitting materials. Finger jointed molding conserves materials by utilizing smaller pieces of wood joined together.

The curved shapes of moldings and door panels balance the strong lines of the cabinets. and reinforce the biophilic interior design, by echoing organic forms, like the curve of a wave or a seashell.

Interior Paint

The interior paint is Greenguard Gold certified as a low emitting material, or has an equivalent certification with small chamber testing. This means that the paint has been tested in a sealed chamber where any off gassing can be analyzed and measured for compliance with health standards. This is not the same as being labeled “low emitting”. Many products are labeled “low emitting” that simply meet legal requirements for the volatile organic compounds in their ingredients. They may only be “low” compared to materials that are no longer legal to use, hardly something to brag about.

Indoor Air Plus certification requires that 90% of all paints, stains, and coatings applied inside the home meet GreenGuard Gold or an equivalent certification. Not only the paint, but also all of the stains, coatings, adhesives, sealants, and caulks in this home were carefully screened to prevent emissions that could contaminate the interior of this home.

All of the paint colors used in the Inspiration Home contain no black or grey pigment, which make them extremely dynamic and responsive to differing conditions of daylight. This mimics the dynamic appearance of colors found in nature and is one of our biophilic design strategies.

UltraLight Gypsum Drywall

US Gypsum USG Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels are Greenguard Gold certified, low emitting materials. Sheetrock is ubiquitous in construction, it is a heavy material used in large quantities.  Using light weight drywall is a simple step that greatly reduces the pollution associated with transporting the materials from manufacture to the site.

USG Sheetrock® Brand UltraLight Panels are 1/2 in. (12.7 mm) gypsum panels that feature proprietary core and paper technologies, resulting in a high strength-to-weight ratio composite design. These lightweight panels are also engineered to have superior sag resistance, eliminating the need for traditional 1/2 in. (12.7 mm) sag-resistant ceiling panels. The noncombustible gypsum core is encased in 100% recycled face and back papers, The light weight design is easier for installers to work with, and can improve construction speed and safety.

People tend to think of the environmental impact of a home or building in terms of energy use and utility bills. However, building materials also create significant environmental impacts, through the pollution associated with their extraction, manufacture, and transportation to the job site. This is called “embodied carbon,” with carbon being an indicator of all greenhouse gases, not just carbon dioxide. The environmental impacts of building materials are also front loaded in time, while a building’s energy use creates incremental impacts over a lifetime of use. Since the emissions that we produce between now and 2050 will determine whether or not we avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the embodied carbon of building materials matters a great deal.

For the greatest impact, prioritize the selection of locally produced and sustainably manufactured materials for heavy items that are needed in large quantities, like brick, concrete, framing, or drywall.

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